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February 2011

What's News?

- bonsai workshop
- congratulations
- other lawn alternatives
- rata and monarchs
- NZ Native Forests Restoration Trust needs your help
- La Niña


Bonsai workshop with John Lyall

Leading NZ artist John Lyall has agreed to hold another of his popular and informative hands-on workshops on Saturday 26 March from 2 - 4pm.

Come and learn how stunning some of our native plants can look as bonsai specimens. The cost is $60, and you'll get three different plants to work on and take home afterwards. You can also read about John and his bonsais in Xanthe White's column in The Listener (February 19 - 25). As this has encouraged considerable interest, it would be wise to contact us soon if you would like to enrol.

The feedback we receive after these classes is amazing, so to find out more, go to:



Our ‘Photo of the Month' winner for February was Gary with his shot of a very successful Dichondra repens lawn. Who says it's boring watching the grass grow!

As Jennifer commented on the website, "Cool, green and best of all, NO NASTY LAWNMOWER".

Dichondra repens is one of several groundcovers that make a good substitute for grasses in a lawn. Commonly known as Mercury Bay weed or kidney weed, it is a small prostrate herbaceous plant native to many parts of coastal New Zealand. Often occurring in forest, woodlands and grasslands, it also inhabits suburban lawns. The plant has a creeping habit, with roots forming at the nodes. Grown as an immaculate lawn for over 100 years, there is ample practical experience on how to maintain it.


Other lawn alternatives

Selliera is another great alternative found naturally on estuarine margins and on the coastal cliffs of the west coast near Auckland, and known locally to Westies as "bonking grass". Selliera is very tolerant of salt, an attribute which greatly aids its maintenance. Simply fill a plastic watering can with salt water and kill the invasive weeds you don't want while giving the Selliera a drink it is completely happy with.

While Selliera and Dichondra are not strictly grasses, Microlaena stipoides is a true grass that once clothed the forest floor of most of NZ's coastal forests. Microlaena can tolerate a fair degree of foot traffic. It grows graceful stems of about 30 - 50cm if left to its own devices, but it can also be mown if a more trimmed effect is preferred.

Geoff's latest favourite is Leptostigma setulosa (it used to be Nertera setulosa), and we have it under the clothes line and sprawling over a rocky retaining wall in full sun. It never seems to be seriously affected by drought and is happy in damp and shady conditions as well.

Leptinella and Gunnera species are other groundcovers suitable for niche roles in the home garden and in public places.


Rata and Monarchs

Metrosideros perforata is an attractive plant in its own right, and one which gives us pleasure every day as we collect the mail. This year we noticed an added attraction. For several weeks our rata flowers became a magnet for swarms of monarch butterflies and bumble bees. Even the neighbours driving past noticed this.


NZ Native Forests Restoration Trust needs your help

Our last newsletter referred to the 30th anniversary of the NZ Native Forests Restoration Trust which Geoff has been closely involved with since its inception. This time we are delighted to report the Trust has been chosen to receive the benefits from the sale of a horse. Not just any horse, but a very special horse - BILLY!

The Resene Fastest Art Exhibition has been organised with the Auckland Racing Club. A number of celebrities have taken on the challenge of decorating a fibreglass horse, and these steeds are now up for auction on Trademe on March 16. The NZNFRT horse, BILLY!, is the work of none other than Billy Apple!

Should you desire an artwork from NZ's most famous conceptual artist, view BILLY! and his listing on Trademe.

However, if you are not a collector of large horses, you can still do your bit. If they receive the greatest number of votes on Facebook, the Trust could win $5,000. Simply log onto Facebook and vote by "liking" the Resene Fastest Art Exhibition Billy Apple page.


La Niña

Last year's drought may have pleased more people, but this year's rain has certainly pleased our plants. Already we are starting to have orders placed for both early planting and for plant needs later in the year. Placing your orders now means that what you want will be available when you need it.

As we approach the new planting season, we look forward to being able to provide you with great plants and great service.

The team at Oratia.